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‘Slavery rebranded’: Aussies slam Centrelink’s ‘work for the dole’

·3-min read
Centrelink's 'work for the dole' has been dubbed 'slavery rebranded'. Source: Getty
Centrelink's 'work for the dole' has been dubbed 'slavery rebranded'. Source: Getty

Australians on welfare are forced to ‘work for the dole’, which the government states will help them gain skills and experience while job seeking, but some believe it’s a rort.

According to the government’s website, job seekers registered with a jobactive provider will need to participate in ‘work for the dole’ or another approved activity for six months each year to continue to receive Newstart benefits.

It’s said to help job seekers develop skills that employers want and show they are ready to work, but Aussies have deemed the practice “slavery rebranded”.

“It allows businesses to get work done with none of the responsibility,” one person tweeted. “No super, no pay, no insurance. What happens when somebody gets killed or injured? What happens when injured people are reinjured? The govt won’t elaborate.”

Jeremy Poxon, media spokesperson for Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU), revealed he was told to sign up to work for the dole at a Salvos right then, or face losing his entitlements.

“I told the consultant “no, we don’t actually have to sign up to this — there’s a range of activities we can choose to fulfill our mutual obligations, why aren’t you providing more options?,” Poxon tweeted.

“There’s a range of activities job seekers can choose to fulfill their mutual obligations (voluntary work, study) but providers don’t tell us this. they deceive & coerce vulnerable job seekers: ‘sign up to this one thing (which nets us a nice bonus) or we’ll cut you off’,” he added.

In fact, under the jobactive deed, providers are required to discuss all the options available to a job seeker, and are intended to agree on the best activity for the job seeker.

Another Newstart recipient, Kylie, revealed that one of the activities she was told to do was sell her jobactive provider’s upcycled furniture on eBay.

“We were told to upcycle the furniture so we did the labour, sanding it back, painting etc,” she said. “She would then take that furniture and sell it on eBay. No we did not get a cut even though it was our work.”


According to the AUWU, it’s because jobactive providers are incentivised to get job seekers into work for the dole programs.

According to AUWU 2018 figures, a jobactive provider could earn up to $2,000 for placing someone in a work for the dole scheme.

And it’s hurting vulnerable Australians

According to a 2019 Senate inquiry into the Jobactive program, the work for the dole program was found to be ineffective.

“Despite the evidence given in support of WfD, overall the committee received overwhelming evidence that the WfD program is not effective at getting people into work,” the report found.

The committee also received evidence that some participants were being incorrectly assigned to work for the dole when they were exempt - and others were coerced into attending activities by being threatened with suspended payments.

“I was put into 3 Work for the Dole activities while I was working a casual job and so getting a reduced rate of NewStart, which according to the jobactive deed I didn't have to do,” the committee heard.

One Newstart recipient said the compliance system was “driving people to suicide”.

“I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and I couldn’t see any way out of my personal problems. In February 2018, I tried to take my own life,” the committee heard.

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